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Should African Americans Collect Racist Collector’s Items?

Written by PlayBack

By Evette D. Champion

When you think about collector’s items, you probably think of coins, stamps, Barbie dolls, and a whole slew of other items; but, what about racist memorabilia?

Author, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. reveals in an article on PBS.org that he is drawn to what he calls “Sambo art.”

With this genre of art, you will find images that perpetuate “everyday racism.” This imagery is so prevalent that Harvard has an expansive collection called “Image of the in Western Art Archive,” which is comprised of 26,000 images of African Americans from all walks of life, depicted in a racist manner.

You may be wondering why there is a niche for these types of collectibles, especially when we as a nation are still struggling with racism even in this day and age. You might say that all these images are a result of Jim Crow and its justification.

Immediately after was abolished and the Civil War came to an end, African Americans were deemed equal to the white citizens of the country. And like the whites, African Americans were given the same rights, such as voting, testifying in court cases, owning land, the right to get an education, and so many others.

Of course, not everything was so simple back then. The Jim Crow laws and numerous court rulings seemed to nullify the Civil Rights Act of 1875, the 14th Amendment which defines citizenship rights and equal protection under all laws, and the 15th Amendment which gives men the ability to vote.

It is believed that because these rulings were passed, it was alright to portray African Americans in a negative light, thus making it appear that they were “sub-human” and reinforced the belief that the “separate but equal” mentality was alright.

Back to the question at hand, “Should African Americans collect racist memorabilia?”

In a simple answer, yes. The images are not going to go away and they are very much part of American culture. The images should be dissected so that any harm they were meant to cause to the American psyche loses its effect.

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